The Yellow Wallpaper: A Twist On Typical Symbols

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was among the most popular feminists and social thinkers at the millenium. Her finest fiction, The Yellow Wallpaper, is also her least common. It has to do with a young partner and mom’s psychological degeneration as tape-recorded in journal by the main character. As checked out next to Gilman’s own breakdown, it is a scary portrayal. Initially, it was translated as a scary story, as seen in William Dean Howells’ essay in his 1920 anthology. Howell writes, “I shiver over it as much as I did when I first read it in manuscript, though I concur with the editor of The Atlantic of the time, that it was too extremely good to be printed”(pp. vii-xiv). It was this misinterpretation, which permitted The Yellow Wallpaper to be overlooked for nearly fifty years, until it was rediscovered by the budding feminist motion. The motion found that The Yellow Wallpaper was one of the unusual pieces of literature, which directly confronts the sexual politics of the male-female, husband-wife relationship. There are two symbolic aspects the Gilman utilizes to bring these sexual politic to light. The aspects are (1) the nursery and all its home furnishings, and (2) the imaginary female behind the pattern.

The Yellow Wallpaper checks out as a psychological scary story of insanity in a young woman, but running as an undercurrent throughout the story, is a feminist file. It was this connection, between the insanity and sexual role of the victim, which gradually unfolds prior to the reader, and the prideful function of the male-husband takes on a practically wicked aspect. Among the very first male prideful characteristics seen in The Yellow Wallpaper is the partner’s treatment of his spouse as a kid. There is never any equality in their relationship; instead, our primary character is dealt with as if she is unable to believe reasonably for herself. Gilman composes that the main character’s partner sees her as his “little lady”(pg. 732). So as a child he chooses a room that most fit her condition. Gilman explains the room as, “The nursery at the top of the stairs. It was a big, airy room, the whole flooring nearly, with windows that look all methods, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery very first and then playroom and gym, I need to judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls”(pg. 727). Initially, we are struck by the open, lighted area that the storyteller tells of the room. This is Gilman’s talk about the lack of privacy managed female in society. There is no place to hide, clears left spiritual to the female. Next, we can see, this physical aspect of the space is symbolic for the three functions females kept in society. In this male dominated time, women were thought of as kid bearers (nursery), sex toys (playroom), and workhorses (gym). Conrad Shumaker composes, “With the images of the disallowed windows, sinister bedspreads, rings on the flooring, and imperious men, the story does undoubtedly raise the concern of sex roles in an efficient way, and expects later feminist literature”(pg. 590). It is these sexual functions that the narrator seems to be rebelling versus as she composes her journal, but can not alter. The only obvious action versus her jail taken by the narrator is to ask her partner to change the wallpaper. Gilman explains it as, “Among those stretching flamboyant patterns devoting every artistic sin. It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly aggravate and provoke research study, and when you follow the lame unsure curves for a little range they suddenly devote suicide plunge off at outrageous angels, ruin themselves in unheard of contradictions”(pg. 727). The paper is symbolizes a woman’s circumstance as seen by men, and for this reason lady’s circumstance as seen by females, the one domineering the other. The wallpaper includes “unsure curves” that “devote suicide damage themselves.” It is these pointless patterns that represent the look for identity, some independent self that when practically found vanishes. Gilman’s narrator wants to change this scenario, however her hubby tells her not to pave the way to her “fancies”(pg. 728). Further, he claims that change would only result in more change. “After the wallpaper was altered it would be the heavy bedspread, and after that the barred windows, and after that eviction at the head of the stairs”(pg. 728). We can quickly see that the real modification Gilman has the other half referring to the change in equality in females. The spouse (man) says that any change will lead to the “gate at the head of the stairs,” or liberty for women from their sexual prisons. The next symbolic aspect that Gilman uses to reveal the prideful nature of guy in society is the narrator’s delusion of a lady trapped in the wall.

The woman in the wallpaper slowly takes shape, when the narrator’s spouse declines to leave your house or change the wallpaper. The storyteller is trapped, and can find no solace in her situation. Elaine R. Hedges composes, “Inevitably, for that reason, the storyteller, imprisoned within the room, believes she discerns the figure of a woman behind the paper. The paper is barred, and the woman is caught behind the bars, attempting to secure free”(pg. 52). The narrator and the lady behind the bars of wallpaper are symbolic for the sexual repression of lady in a patriarchal society. They are caught, and desperately trying to define the world around them, but her insights are bad weapons against the male certainty of his supremacy. The storyteller’s mad-sane method is to see the circumstance for what it is. She has actually wanted to strangle the lady behind the wallpaper, for that way she might turn down the sent to prison lady within herself. This is in some ways self-murder, since the lady in the wallpaper is a projection of herself and circumstance. The only alternative is insanity. Hedges writes, “The heroine in The Yellow Wallpaper is damaged. She has actually combated her finest versus other half, sibling, medical professional, and even versus females good friends (her partner’s sibling, for instance, is an ideal and passionate housemaid, and hopes for no much better occupation”).

She has actually tried, in defiance of all the social and medical codes of her time, to retain her peace of mind and her individuality. But the chances protest her and she fails”(pg. 55). The codes of society are to binding, and engrained for the storyteller (ladies) to endure the trial for freedom. Male when again has actually held his grip at the throat of his prey, and gradually drains pipes the life breath from it. Gilman is tired of the iron wall that bars equality. Therefore, as in any helpless circumstance there is only two alternatives, insanity, or determination. Gilman’s narrator discovers her freedom in insanity, and as The Yellow Wallpaper concludes, her spouse finds her sneaking along the walls of the space. “I have actually gone out at last,” she tells him triumphantly, “And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back”(pg. 737). Her husband passes out, and she is obliged to step over him each time she circles the room. This ending is a contradiction of defeat and success. The storyteller discovers her triumph as she steps over her fainted hubby, yet she is beat by never getting away the jail of her space. Gilman, by ending The Yellow Wallpaper in this style, believed that though women may one day might find some loophole out of guy’s supremacy over them, they would always be trapped in the constrains formed by males. In this, she was right, for though lady have made lots of leaps in equality, a male dominated society still eventually makes the rules and design by which women live.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman outshines herself as a feminist writer as she creates the storyteller in The Yellow Wallpaper. She is an unique, brilliant character, who has problem with the perfect-shaped box that her male companion has actually forced her to live in, but package itself (the nursery) is what actually enables The Yellow Wallpaper to come alive for the reader. The storyteller’s symbolic paper-house crumbles prior to our eyes, and Gilman’s true significance is revealed in heart-stopping magnificence. The narrator is no longer a prisoner; her madness has actually offered her wings.

Work Mentioned

Hedges, Elaine R. “Later On” The Feminist Press 1973.

Howells, William D. “A Reminiscent Intro in The Fantastic Modern American Stories” Boni and Liveright Inc. 1920

Ed. Lauter, Paul. “The Heath Anthology of American Literature” Houghton Mifflin Business 1998

Shumaker, Conrad. “‘Too Terribly Excellent To Be Printed’: Charlotte Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper'” American Literature Vol. 57 1985

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